Soon, the United Kingdom will fire up the world’s largest floating solar farm. Over 23,000 solar panels will be floated on a reservoir about 20 miles southwest of London, generating renewable energy to power local water treatment plants. The $8.3 million project has been in planning and development for more than five years and is now just weeks away from completion.

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The electricity generated by the massive solar farm operated by Thames Water will be used to power local water treatment plants, which will supply clean drinking water to 10 million people in greater London and the south-east of England. Despite the enormous number of solar panels, project managers insist the environmental impact of the solar farm will be minimal, given that the solar farm covers only 6 percent of the surface area of the man-made Queen Elizabeth II reservoir at Walton-on-Thames near Heathrow. This leaves plenty of space for the reservoir’s regular inhabitants to thrive, especially since there aren’t many to begin with – just a small population of waterbirds and some ‘accidental’ fish.

Related: The UK’s first floating solar farm unveiled in Berkshire

The culmination of more than five years of planning, the project is set to wrap up in early March. The UK’s first floating solar farm, by comparison, was made up of just 800 solar panels when it opened in 2014 and cost a fraction of the $8.3 million that went into this enormous renewable energy farm.

Although it will be the largest in the world upon its completion, project managers admit it may soon be surpassed by other projects. “This will be the biggest floating solar farm in the world for a time – others are under construction,” said Angus Berry, energy manager for Thames Water. “We are leading the way, but we hope that others will follow, in the UK and abroad.”

Via The Guardian

Images via Wikipedia and Thames Water